Marginalised by the mainstream: the construction of sexuality and representations of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Australian youth policy

Emslie, M 2002, Marginalised by the mainstream: the construction of sexuality and representations of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Australian youth policy, Masters by Research, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Marginalised by the mainstream: the construction of sexuality and representations of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Australian youth policy
Author(s) Emslie, M
Year 2002
Abstract In this thesis, I explore how some same sex attracted young people experience heteronormativity, heterosexism, homophobia and biphobia. I also examine representations of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people in youth health policies aimed at addressing issues affecting them. I used qualitative research methods to explore how sexuality was constructed in some young people's lives and how hegemonic ideas about sexuality were experienced. Semi structured individual interviews were conducted with lesbian, gay and bisexual young people. I analyzed the data using grounded theory.

I argue that various institutions (namely legal, political, religious, scientific and cultural) and practices within families, peer groups, workplaces, schools and other social settings, produce limited ideas concerning what is acceptable, 'normal' human sexuality. Through this study I found that sexual emotions and behaviors understood as heterosexual are affirmed and accepted, while those identified as homosexual or bisexual are subordinated and stigmatized. I argue that these ideas of sexuality adversely affect some young people.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people adopt a range of techniques to construct and negotiate their sexual identities within hostile and unsupportive environments. They often struggle with the choice to conceal or disclose their homosexuality or bisexuality in everyday life.

Some young people respond to the stigma of homosexuality and bisexuality by concealing their homosexual or bisexual orientation. This investigation revealed that this causes stress, a negative self-image, alienation, and isolation for many of these young people. Young lesbians, gays and bisexuals also report that concealing their sexuality negatively impacts on relationships with family, friends, work colleagues and others.

Some young people however oppose the expectations to be heterosexual and disclose their homosexuality or bisexuality. Through this research it became apparent that many same sex attracted young people who disclose experience prejudice, violence and discrimination in relationships, employment, education, health services and elsewhere. Furthermore, lesbian, gay and bisexual young people often experience isolation, suicide ideation, suicide attempts, homelessness, and other psychosocial problems because of the stigma attached to homosexuality and bisexuality.

Official recognition of the difficulties experienced by same sex attracted young people has led to moves to include them in federal and state government youth related policies. Young lesbians, gay men and bisexuals have, for example, been mentioned in policies relating to youth suicide, youth homelessness, and a national health policy for children and young people. To address the health concerns mentioned, approaches outlined in the policies concentrate on improving the young people's access to health services. I argue that this intervention alone is inadequate because it fails to challenge the heteronormative, heterosexist, homophobic and biphobic ideas of sexuality that harm the health, and well-being of young lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

A range of strategies are recommended regarding policies concerned with young people that are directed towards ending inequality between sexualities. This research reveals that certain social practices, institutions and beliefs constitute heterosexual hegemony, which oppresses homosexuality and bisexuality, thereby producing negative experiences for many same sex attracted young people. Hegemonic ideas of sexuality, I argue, need to be disrupted and changed. Australian governments have the capacity to make a significant contribution to interrupting such discriminatory ideas and practices by enacting legislation designed to break patterns of heterosexual privileging.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Same sex attracted youth
Youth policy
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Created: Tue, 21 Jun 2011, 10:06:05 EST by Guy Aron
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